Taking the Long View: An Interview with Gro Harlem Brundtland by Seana Lowe Steffen

Her Excellency Gro Harlem Brundtland, founding chair of the world commission that launched the concept of sustainable development onto the center of the global stage in 1987 (The Brundtland Report), recently shared her thoughts with the Restorative Leadership Institute. Her perspectives on the state of the world and sustainability issues are still extremely relevant today.

If the state of the world is a reflection of the state of our leadership, twentieth century leaders failed to adequately address the risks to sustainability and human civilization. As the world’s population balloons past 7 billion, there is mounting evidence that we have exceeded what a collection of international scientists known as ‘The Club of Rome’ first predicted to be the limits to growth in 1972.

Global production and consumption patterns are considered the key contributors to climate disruption and resource depletion. 2011 was the second warmest on record; this spring has been the hottest, and extreme weather events in general are threatening food security worldwide. Biologists have dubbed the scale of Earth’s biodiversity loss the Sixth Great Extinction.

In a rare interview, Gro Harlem Brundtland urged a global shift toward a sustainable future and suggests that it is our personal leadership that will get us there:

“Leadership always means taking the long view, inspired by our common needs and a clear sense of shared responsibility for taking the necessary action. In our time it means thinking even further ahead than leaders had to do one or two generations ago. Now we have the evidence to show us that that our human activities, the footsteps of our own time, will affect negatively the lives and choices we leave to future generations—in a potentially disastrous way—due to our own overstepping of planetary boundaries. We face a moral challenge to act in time to protect Planet Earth and the livelihood of new generations.”

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland released a report titled, Our Common Future: A Global Agenda for Change. In doing so, Dr. Brundtland and the WCED launched the concept of sustainable development to the center of the global stage, linking economic, social and ecological systems and calling for unprecedented international cooperation.

Now, in 2012, Dr. Brundtland expressed her concern that, “many are still not really ready to take seriously the mounting evidence of how humanity is affecting her own future.” She advises, “We are all in this together, every human being. We all need to realize that time is running out, and that the only answer is to take commonly-based actions, and take seriously our shared and combined responsibilities.”

“The tensions, controversies and gridlocks between development and environment will persist until our leadership respects the notion of sustainability,” says the new Brundtland Report: A 20 Years Update.

With ecosystems flashing warning signs throughout the world, Dr. Brundtland urges restorative leadership practices that prioritize the wellbeing of all humanity and elevate the quality of life for future generations. The question becomes, what does that take? According to Dr. Brundtland: “A key factor is to realize that we all are responsible as we affect our common future through our own action or inaction. It will never be sufficient for us as global, national and local citizens to leave every decision to our leaders and expect them alone to take responsibility. We must all feel responsible to support and select the kind of leaders that will pursue the right policy, and be willing to do our part in a vibrant, participatory democratic society that holds a holistic, global view of the future.”

 Source: Restorative Leadership blog written on June 6, 2012. Restorative Leadership Institute http://blog.restorative-leadership.org/2012/06/taking

One response to “Taking the Long View: An Interview with Gro Harlem Brundtland by Seana Lowe Steffen

  1. Val

    One problem is that “sustainable development” has always been an oxymoron. It should have been “development of sustainability” to really make sense. The lack of enough action since the early 1970s has brought the world to the tipping points, once completely crossed, that will lead to unstoppable reactions in the form of methane turnover and complete the ELE called “ecocide”. Actions must be immediate and large to have any effect as time is running out by the end of this decade.

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